There is no doubt that streaming has become one of the primary components of the gaming industry. There is also no doubt that we are living in the best era for gamers yet.
The ability to gain a mass following through streaming can allow us gamers to monetize what we love doing most. Platforms such as Twitch and YouTube have opened those doors for us. The more people doing it, though, the more competitive it can be, and high-quality audio can easily separate one gamer from the next.
Unfortunately that old ‘gaming’ headset you pulled out of your closet probably lacks a certain shine in the microphone department, meaning you need to begin thinking of headphones and microphones as two separate purchases.
Fortunately, we know audio, and there are endless options out on the market to take your streaming to the next level.
Let’s take a look at what you need to keep in mind when choosing a good microphone for streaming. There’s quite a bit actually, so let’s get to it.
- 1 Live Streaming From Your Computer
- 2 Starting With What You Have
- 3 External Microphones
- 4 Audio Interfaces
- 5 Headsets
- 6 The 5 Best Mics for Streaming Compared
- 7 Time to Go Live!
Live Streaming From Your Computer
If you’re playing the latest games on your computer, you’ve probably already decked it out with the proper processing power. Streaming to Twitch or YouTube will also require some of that extra processing power, so keep that in mind before you begin.
Before even considering a streaming microphone purchase, you should make sure that your computer has baseline specs of:
- An Intel Core i5-4670 Processing Unit or the equivalent
- 8GB of Ram
- Graphics Card w/ Direct 10x or Higher
You must also have a reliable internet connection with sufficient uploading speed. To stream at a decent quality, broadcasters recommend having an uploading speed of at least 3mbps.
Now that you have your computer and internet speeds in order, let’s focus on what you’ll need to share that delightful commentary alongside your video streams.
Starting With What You Have
Before you splurge on new external hardware, there’s a good chance that you might have a reasonably good webcam that can give you decent audio quality to go along with your video.
Obviously, this depends on the specs of your machine, though it certainly is the most budget-friendly option and an excellent way to test the waters before you invest in something.
You should consider, however, that the majority of professional streamers are using audio units separate from their webcams/cameras, as the audio from webcams can present a few issues.
- For starters, they pick up far too much room noise, meaning they’ll have a more difficult time honing in on your voice. Nobody wants to listen to your air conditioner for an hour!
- Secondly, it’s near impossible to properly adjust the volume on webcam microphones, even with the software on your computer.
If you ultimately decide to go with an external microphone to get that crystal-clear audio, one of the first issues you’ll most likely run into is:
“Should you buy an XLR microphone or a USB microphone?”
As a user of both, we can say with confidence that XLR microphones are where to look if you’re serious about streaming audio.
With that being said, let’s discuss the pros and cons of each:
Convenience and Simplicity
By far, USB microphones are much more convenient and straightforward to setup.
All you’ll need is your microphone, your computer (which has USB ports), and your voice. It indeed is that easy to get started.
There is pretty much no additional setup after you plug your USB mic in. You may or may not need to install drivers on your computer to get it up and running, but compare that to purchasing a preamp, interface, and mixer for your XLR, and you’ll find that a USB microphone lets you cruise down easy street.
Not only are USB mics far more convenient in comparison to XLRs, but they are also much cheaper. That’s because USB microphones are made to mimic proper, professional audio setups without the professional upfront costs or the variety of additional components.
If you’re just getting started with streaming, there’s no reason to spend a month’s paycheck on performing what will initially be simple recording tasks. Realistically, you should be paying no more than $500 on a quality USB microphone.
Unfortunately, USB mics don’t perform at the level of XLR microphones regarding quality. They typically have harder times picking up nuances in sound. That being said, most of your viewers won’t notice the “analog tinge” anyway so that added quality may not matter in the long run.
However, USB microphones are notorious for having latency, a major issue if you’re getting into streaming. For those of you who don’t know what latency is in audio, it’s essentially the delay between the audio being recorded and that same audio being played back.
This can result in an echo effect that can be incredibly distracting. That being said, some higher end USB microphones contain headphone jacks so that you can operate them as audio output devices. If they don’t, you’ll have to do your best to configure your latency settings on your recording software to decrease the delay.
XLR microphones require a few additional components so that they can be used for recording your streaming audio:
- A male to female XLR cable
- An Audio Interface or Mixer
This can be a good and bad thing.
On the plus side, if something were to go wrong with one of the components, you could easily swap them out like you would with a computer. A USB microphone is one single component, meaning if it dies, you have to start all over.
Because there are different components, you’ll also have more room to upgrade as you become more experienced, and you’ll have more control over your audio ‘rig’ than if you just had one microphone.
As an example, if you wanted to have guests on your stream at some point, or build a ‘studio’ to run your streams, XLR microphones will give you the versatility to upgrade or troubleshoot by swapping cables and interfaces.
On the bad side, these extra components can be a bit of a learning curve and a hassle for you to deal with, and the complexity of setting something up if you have a ‘plug-and-play’ attitude can definitely be undesirable.
Dynamic vs Condenser
When you begin looking into XLR microphones, the two types that you’ll commonly find are Dynamic microphones and Condenser microphones.
Each of them has their own pros and cons.
1 - Condenser Microphones
Condenser microphones are quite popular in vocal recording, meaning they are a typical purchase for streamers. This is because they are built with accuracy in mind.
The issue with their accuracy, though, is that they may be too sensitive in rooms that aren’t adequately treated, meaning they’ll pick up unwanted sounds like echo, air conditioning, or the dog barking across the street.
We recommend looking into condenser microphones ONLY if you have a quiet or treated space to record in.
Condenser microphones also require what is called phantom power, which a solid audio interface or mixer will typically provide.
2- Dynamic Microphones
Dynamic Microphones work opposite of Condenser Microphones in a few ways:
- They’re more durable
- They’re not as sensitive (making them better for untreated environments)
- They don’t require Phantom Power
- They are typically cheaper
Which Should I Choose?
If you are serious about getting high fidelity voice recordings, have an acoustically treated room or quiet recording environment, and have the extra cash, we highly recommend getting a condenser microphone.
If you want something low cost and durable and you don’t have a treated room, you can get quite a bit out of a dynamic microphone.
If you ultimately decide to go the XLR route, you’ll need an audio interface. Essentially an audio interface takes your voice from a microphone and turns it into a digital signal that your computer can recognize.
Though the components of an audio interface can affect your sound quality, as a new streamer, you shouldn’t overthink it, as it’s easy to get lost in the rabbit hole of high-end external hardware.
That being said, here are a few things you can consider:
If you’re getting an audio interface, make sure to get one with 48v Phantom Power. Even if you decide to go with a dynamic microphone, having Phantom Power can give you more versatility down the road.
Number of Inputs
The cool thing about audio interfaces is that they can allow for multiple inputs, unlike USB microphones.
Consider if you ever want to stream with a friend in the same room.
If you want to hook up two microphones, three, or even eight for your whole stream team, you’ll need that number of inputs on your interface to supply all those microphones with connectivity.
If you are dead set on having the best sound straight out of your microphone and into your computer, it can be nice to have an interface with features such as EQ, Noise Gates, and Compression.
- EQ can help to cut out the nasty mumbo jumbo and ‘undesirable parts of your voice’ while enhancing others
- Compression can help to keep your voice at an even volume so that you don’t go from 0-60 in your audience’s ears at the climax of your stream
- Noise Gates can keep out the pesky air conditioner or any other low volume noises out of your audio stream
Obviously, these features can be a bit overkill for simple audio streaming, though if you’re set on having the best of the best, great interfaces will provide these things.
So you’ve decided to cut the cost and hassle of setting up an external microphone and instead want to go with a headset for your Twitch or YouTube stream.
Like with external microphones, there are pros and cons with headsets.
This is probably the main (and one of the few) pros about headsets. Many streamers dread setting up a microphone, mixer, etc. to go live on their stream, so rather than doing that, they use headsets that they can easily plug in, throw on, and talk to their stream / listen back to the audio, all with one compact, user-friendly device.
Unfortunately, the majority of headset manufacturers create their headsets with far better monitoring quality than microphone quality.
While it isn’t impossible to find a headset with decent microphone quality, at that point, you’re in the price range of external microphones, defeating the second pro, which is that headsets are typically lower in price range.
The 5 Best Mics for Streaming Compared
Now that we’ve gone through everything you should consider before picking up your first streaming mic, let’s look at the products we like and would highly recommend!
Best for Pro Sound Quality
If you have the extra money to spend and want to dive into the world of professional, high fidelity sound, a Shure SM7B is an excellent high end choice.
Over the years, the Shure SM7B has pretty much become standard in the world of radio broadcasting and podcasting, meaning it’s also perfect for streaming.
This dynamic cardioid microphone has a wide frequency response from 50Hz to 20kHz, meaning it’ll be able to pick up the nuances of your voice much better than the Yeti. It’s also designed to protect against electromagnetic static and hum that can be generated from your computer, which is awesome if you’re worried about external noise.
The SM7B comes in a nice package containing a built-in windscreen (a device that will dampen higher plosives in your voice like “P’s” and “S’s - very similar to a pop filter), a standard mounting bracket to attach it to any standard microphone stand, and an air-suspension shock mount to keep it nice and sturdy.
Bottom Line: If nothing else, the Shure SM7B is certainly a top candidate for the ‘best mic’ for streaming. Obviously you will need an audio interface to hook this up to your computer, but in the long run, having a sturdy, professional, and quality sounding XLR microphone, will help take your audio streams to a competitive level.
The Blue Yeti USB microphone can be found in popular streams all around the world. That’s because it is one of the best regarding price and quality.
While it does come with multiple polar patterns for recording sound from different directions, it most importantly is a cardioid microphone. This means that, when pointed at you, it focuses on your voice and cuts out noise like buzzing monitors, mouse and keyboard clicking, etc.
The Blue Yeti also offers a solid amount of control including controls for gain and volume built in, as well as a mute button.
What we love most about the Blue Yeti is that it has a zero-latency microphone output. This is GREAT for checking your sound and monitoring without any annoying delay.
It’s mix of natural, well-rounded sound, built-in gain controls, multiple polar patterns, and sturdy stand, make it an excellent choice for streamers.
Some do, however, complain that the size of it can be a deterrent, though we feel as long as you position it in a way that it doesn’t distract from your stream, you should be good to go!
Bottom Line: The Blue Yeti is one of the most popular for podcasting for it’s quality sound, plug-and-play design, and reliability. It’s difficult to beat in terms of overall value.
Best Budget / Cheap
The Turtle Beach USB Mic was pretty much created for people who want to stream content directly from their consoles - Xbox One, PS4, as well as from PC or Mac.
For a budget streaming mic, this thing has some pretty sweet capabilities. Some of the best features on the Turtle Beach USB Mic include
- adaptive microphone patterns that pick up sound from multiple positions;
- plug-and-play compatibility, meaning it doesn’t require any external hardware; and
- A zero-latency headphone output so that you can accurately monitor your audio as you stream.
When you spend less on a consumer microphone, you have to understand that the audio quality won’t shine as much as it would with a professional quality microphone. That’s not to say you can’t edit the sound quality in post to make it better, but if you’re going directly into the mic and out to your streamers in a live situation, the raw audio certainly won’t be the cleanest.
Bottom Line: If you can live with the subpar sound quality, this mic is a sturdy, well-built, and versatile. You’ll be hard-pressed to find one better in the price range.
The Logitech 533 Wireless Headset can offer a far more premium headset experience for audio streaming than most other headsets, especially for the price.
This headset has quite a few mentionable features that give it some clout. It comes with Logitech’s Pro-G Drivers to give you better and more accurate in-stream / in-game surround sound, a 15-Hour battery life that you can pretty much rely on for non-stop streaming and gaming, and a functional and comfortable fit.
If you’ve worn heavy or tight headsets for long periods of gaming before, you’ll know how uncomfortable they can become. This headset seeks to get rid of that problem.
The microphone on the Logitech G533 Wireless is a boom mic, pretty much standard on gaming headphones, and has a small, flexible metal arm that easily retracts. For a ‘cheap’ microphone, we were surprised how little sibilance or popping you get from speaking into it.
That being said, the attached microphone has worst quality on our list, as more of the focus goes toward the headphones than the mic.
Bottom Line: The ease of use, comfort, and wireless capabilities, help to balance out the lacking microphone quality, and make it a great choice for those looking at headsets.
While it doesn’t have any shimmering qualities that make it glow compared to other streaming microphones, the Razer Seiren X has a great mix of affordability and portability.
The first thing you’ll notice when you look at this mic is the shock mount that is built inside the microphone. Because it’s built-in, streamers who are constantly on the move can quickly set it up just about anywhere. It sits nicely on any flat surface and takes the worry out of it accidentally being bumped or knocked off.
The Razer Seiren X also comes with a supercardioid polar pattern, helping to focus the sound on your voice and cut out any external background noise.
Like the USB Yeti Microphone, it’s designed with zero-latency monitoring that you can get through the headphone jack.
Bottom Line: If you’re on the hunt for a quality and affordable microphone for streaming on the go, we can’t recommend a better option than the Razer Seiren X.
Time to Go Live!
Look, at the end of the day, you’re streaming content, not recording a studio album. When you’re just starting out, no one in your audience is going to care about that ‘sweet vintage warmth dude’.
There’s no reason to be spending a crazy amount of money on a streaming setup unless pro recording is part of your process. That’s why, we would highly recommend going with the Blue Yeti USB Mic.
Not only does this mic have the low cost and ease-of-use that USB mics are known for, but it also includes low-latency monitoring and a balanced natural sound that people typically discount USB microphones for not having.
On the flipside, if you’re absolutely dead set on having top-tier quality for your streaming audio, we’d suggest the Shure SM7b along with the highest quality audio interface you can afford.
As we mentioned before, the SM7b is pretty much standard for broadcasting quality – you won’t be disappointed with it!
So consider your situation and weigh out your options. But don’t take too long. Just make a decision and TAKE ACTION! Remember, no one is going to care about the quality of a stream if they don’t even know it exist’s – duh!
We hope that this guide has helped you with your streaming journey.
Good luck out there!